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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The beginning of the end of Leftist domination of Israel's Foreign Ministry?

In the past week, there have been two significant appointments to Israel's foreign ministry that have the potential to change the foreign ministry's longtime Leftist slant. Keep in mind as you read this that Prime Minister Netanyahu did not appoint a foreign minister and that it was previously thought that he was holding the position open in the hope that Avigdor Lieberman or Dore Gold would eventually join the government. 

Last week, Tzipi Hotovely was named Deputy Foreign Minister - essentially putting her in charge of the ministry. Evelyn Gordon explains why Hotovely's appointment is so unusual and significant.
First, she’s a novice who has never held any executive branch position before, yet will now exercise de facto control over one of the cabinet’s most important ministries. Technically, she serves under Netanyahu, who retained the foreign affairs portfolio for himself. But since Netanyahu already has a full-time job as prime minister, she will largely run the ministry.
Second, she’s one of the most hawkish members of Netanyahu’s coalition and an outspoken opponent of Palestinian statehood. As The Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent, Herb Keinon, put it, “Hotovely represents the opposite of everything much of the world...wants to see in Israel.”
Third, in contrast to appointees like Miri Regev or Haim Katz, whose power bases within Likud were simply too strong for Netanyahu to ignore, Hotovely’s support inside the party is tenuous; in the last primary, she barely scraped into the 20th slot. Nor is she known as one of the premier’s own loyalists. Thus he was under no political compulsion to reward her with such a lofty post.
Finally, there were plenty of other candidates who would seemingly have been more suitable, including the one many American Jews undoubtedly hoped to see there: former ambassador to Washington and current Kulanu MK Michael Oren.
Indeed, Hotovely’s main qualification for the post – aside from being pretty, personable and reportedly speaking excellent English – would seem to be that she constitutes no threat to Netanyahu, who notoriously squelches anyone he does consider a potential political threat.
That’s why so many ambitious Likudniks eventually quit the party to run their own parties (see Moshe Kahlon, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman).
Gordon goes on to make a case for Hotovely being the one to shift the Foreign Ministry's focus away from the West and toward Africa and Latin America. And while I agree with Gordon that there's little hope of Europe ever taking our side again in the diplomatic courts of the world for the foreseeable future, I believe that there's a lot more that Hotovely can accomplish than just keeping countries like Rwanda and Nigeria on our side.

Sunday was perhaps the first indication that Netanyahu intends to have Hotovely remake the foreign ministry and the diplomatic corps: Netanyahu summarily fired the Director General and appointed his longtime confidante Dore Gold to be Director General of the Ministry and to work directly under Hotovely.

Gold, a former ambassador to the United Nations and currently head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, will be working under Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who was told about the appointment just prior to it being made public. He replaces Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, a veteran ministry employee who started out in its administrative track and then moved to the diplomatic side. 
[Former Foreign Minister Avigdor] Liberman commented on the appointment, saying that while it was Netanyahu’s prerogative to appoint his own man to this post, appointments at the ministry are not ways to give out favors or settle scores. He also said that “it needs to be clear that new appointments or changes are not a replacement for clear policy.”

In that regard, one government source said, Gold was the perfect candidate because he had a direct line to Netanyahu, and his interlocutors would know that when he speaks, he is speaking for Netanyahu and with authority.

“This will give him power and make him relevant,” the official said, noting that Ben-Sheetrit never enjoyed that status.

The American-born Gold is considered one of Netanyahu’s top foreign policy advisers. He served as one of his foreign policy advisers starting in 1996, during the prime minister’s first term in office, being appointed the following year as ambassador to the UN, where he served until 1999. In 2014, he became an “outside” consultant in the Prime Minister’s Office.

In recent years, Gold has accompanied Netanyahu on many of his trips to Washington and the UN, and over the years has been one of Israel’s foremost unofficial spokesmen, speaking in the media and at conferences around the world on Israeli policy. He is often sought out by journalists and diplomats because of his knowledge of the issues, and because he is considered to be close to Netanyahu, thus reflecting his thinking.

He has also been very active in lobbying policy-makers on behalf of “defensible borders” for Israel.

Hotovely spoke with Gold after the appointment and issued a statement, saying that with his rich experience in the international arena, the former UN ambassador could contribute to furthering Israel’s position in the world.
For those of you who have forgotten, 'defensible borders' mean that any 'Palestinian state' would be severely truncated.
Dore Gold has done the State of Israel a great service by forcing us to focus on concrete things that we want out of the 'peace process.' Dore is fond of pointing out that when you ask a 'Palestinian' what he wants from the 'peace process,' he will tell you that he wants a 'Palestinian state' in the areas that are outside Israel's '1967 borders' (for now), whose capital is Jerusalem. If you ask an Israeli Jew what he wants from the 'peace process,' he will tell you 'peace.'

Dore is changing that paradigm. One of the things he believes that Israeli Jews can and should be demanding from the 'peace process' is defensible borders. His organization, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has put together a collection of essays that sets out in concrete terms what defensible borders mean. The collection is called Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace. It's reviewed by Lee Smith in Tablet Magazine.
The book Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace is a collection published this year under the auspices of the JCPA with essays about security and diplomacy by leading figures in Israel’s security establishment, like Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former head of IDF intelligence, and Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan, former IDF deputy chief of staff and a former national security adviser to Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. The volume’s findings represent a broad consensus across the Israeli political spectrum, and the fact that Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon—former IDF chief of staff and currently the vice prime minister—wrote the introduction is evidence that the ideas have won approval at the highest political levels.

The book pushes three common ideas, some likely to add to the friction between Washington and Jerusalem: First, Israel, must not withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines; second, Israel needs defensible borders; third, Israel must rely on itself to defend itself and not on foreign forces as proposed by U.S. national security adviser Gen. James Jones, who has talked openly about replacing the IDF with international forces in the West Bank.

The insistence that Israel must retain the ability to defend its own borders—a basic attribute of national sovereignty—is the least controversial element of Gold’s blueprint. The issue is not merely the inglorious record of U.N. peacekeeping forces—from Sinai to Bosnia and Lebanon—but also the fact that the international community rarely sends its blue helmets into the middle of a real shooting war, which is what the West Bank would become if an IDF withdrawal left Hamas and Fatah at each other’s throats and eager to gain credit for launching terror attacks on Israel.

The concept of defensible borders is closely tied to the drawing of 1949 armistice lines, commonly and incorrectly known as the 1967 borders. As Gold explains in his contribution to the volume, successive U.S. administrations since Lyndon Johnson’s have all recognized the danger in Israel withdrawing to those borders. George Shultz, one of President Ronald Reagan’s secretaries of State, explained that “Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders,” and the Clinton Administration reaffirmed the Reagan White House’s concept of defensible borders. However, it was during Clinton’s Camp David negotiations that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abandoned the idea of defensible borders in the hope of a radical breakthrough with Yasser Arafat. With the outbreak of the Second Intifada and peace nowhere in the offing, the George W. Bush Administration pledged not to hold the Israelis to the Clinton parameters and returned to the traditional U.S. position. “It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” reads an April 14, 2004 letter from Bush to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Read the whole thing - especially my last comment.

How will this play out in the field? One indication might be this link I received in an email this morning from JCC Watch's Richard Allen.
The UJA-Federation’s top brass have been twisting the arms of Israel’s diplomatic corps to provide cover for supporting the New Israel Fund marching in the Israel Day Parade, according to emails obtained by JCCWatch.
The strategy to use the Foreign Ministry as their beard came to an uncomfortable public end last week, when the Spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York had to make a statement to deny what UJA-Federation CEO Eric Goldstein had told Talkline Communications radio host Zev Brenner on March 30. In an appearance on the show, Goldstein said, twice actually, that “the government of Israel, the Consul General’s office, very much, emphatically, want us to allow these groups to continue to march.”
The consulate spokesman told Arutz Sheva last week that at “no point did any of the parade’s organizers consult with the Consulate or with someone acting on its behalf regarding the New Israel Fund’s participation.” The newspaper quoted the spokesman directly as saying, “never, ever, did the Consul-General, or someone on his behalf, or any of the Consulate’s employees, say anything favoring the NIF’s participation, either explicitly or implicitly, in a hinted manner or in public, in secret or openly.”
The oddly worded distancing of the Consul-General’s office from the UJA-Federation comes as emails obtained by JCCWatch show Goldstein and former UJA-Federation president Jerry Levin, indeed, reaching out to Israeli ambassadors for exactly that kind of cover.
The email trail leading up to Goldstein’s foot-in-mouth routine, and reproduced below, casts a dark shadow on UJA-Federation leadership who were able to co-opt important Israel diplomats to publicly boost their cause of defending the New Israel Fund.
The exposure of Federation efforts to force parade organizers to accept the New Israel Fund, and the disavowal of interference on behalf of the NIF's behalf by the Consulate may have come on a direct order from Hotovely. And if it did, it's long overdue.  In the past, I doubt that the Consulate would have issued such a clarification.

Here's hoping that Hotovely and Gold will bring about an end to the Leftist domination of the Foreign Ministry, which goes back to the days of Shimon Peres, Tzipi Livni and others. That would be a welcome change.

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